Wolf J. Flywheel (The Big Store)

Created by Hal Fineberg, Ray Golden, Sid Kuller & Nat Perrin

“We won’t need any stores detectives with him around.”
— Hah!

Not your average gumshoe, but certainly one of the mouthiest, Groucho Marx stars as WOLF J. FLYWHEEL, possibly the most useless private eye in the world in the 1941 Marx Bros. comedy The Big Store.

He’s hired by Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont), the matronly co-owner of Phelps Department Store, when an attempt is made on the life of her new partner, crooner Tommy Rogers (Tony Martin, who I guess somebody was pushing).

But of course Wolf is simply running a scam–he shows about as  many detective chops as a box of rocks. Meanwhile, Grover, the store manager, is robbing them blind, and he’s worried that Flywheel may discover his embezzlement.

But the con(s) must go on, so Flywheel and his (silent) partner Ravelli (Harpo!) hook up with piano-playing fellow flim-flam man Wacky (Chico!).

Certainly not the best Marx Brothers flick, but the perfect tonic for all those hard-boiled, noirer-than-thou takes on the private eye.

Groucho later played Sam Grunion, another private eye in 1949’s Love Happy.


  • Martha Phelps: I’m afraid after we’re married awhile, a beautiful young girl will come along, and, uh, you’ll forget all about me.
    Wolf J. Flywheel: Don’t be silly. I’ll write you twice a week.
  • Wolf J. Flywheel: So, you didn’t think I was a real detective, eh?
    Mr. Grover: Aw, if you’re a detective, I’m a monkey’s uncle.
    Wolf J. Flywheel: Keep your family out of this!
  • I told you in the first reel he was a crook!”
    — Wolf J. Flywheel


  • THE BIG STORE Buy the DVD  Watch it now!
    (1941, MGM)
    Written by Hal Fineberg, Ray Golden, Sid Kuller, Nat Perrin
    Directed by Charles Reisner
    Produced by Louis k. Sidney
    Starring Groucho Marx as WOLF J. FLYWHEEL
    with Chico Marx as Ravelli
    and Harpo Marx as Wacky
    Also starring Margaret Dumont, Tony Martin, Virginia Grey, Douglass Dumbrille



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

One thought on “Wolf J. Flywheel (The Big Store)

Leave a Reply